SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — A ground ball to the right side of the infield or a fly to the outfield, either way, Meghan Spencer was sprinting for home.
Those were the instructions given to the Glendale High softball player by Nitros Coach Chris Paknik.
All Glendale's Janette Avina had to do was make contact.
Avina lifted a flyball to shallow center field and to Hoover's surprise, Spencer went for home, testing the arm of Tornado Kenya Buckley.
Spencer beat the throw, sidestepping the Hoover catcher and touching home plate to give Glendale a 4-3 Pacific League victory in the season finale for both teams on Thursday at Glendale.
"I was thinking, I have to score, I have to score," said Spencer, Glendale's ace in the circle who also tossed a complete game, surrendering just one earned run and striking out three.
Avina, a senior captain, thought she had to provide the winner.
"I was thinking I have to win this battle," said Avina, who was two for three with two runs batted in, including a run-scoring triple that tied the score at 3 in the bottom of the fifth inning. "All these four years came down to this. This was a great game."
It was a game that appeared to be Hoover's for the taking.
The Tornadoes (9-16, 4-10 in league) owned a 3-1 lead entering the fifth, as Buckley, Bri Manzanero — who was three for three — and Kaitlyn Williams each scored a run. Williams and Manzanero scored in the third inning when Williams' hit to center was misjudged by the outfielder, allowing the ball to soar over her head and scoring both Tornadoes.
The Nitros also couldn't figure out Manzanero, a senior pitcher who didn't allow a hit between the second and fourth innings, retiring nine of 10 during the stretch.
"We had to settle in," Paknik said. "We had to regain our composure and make it happen one base at a time."
Hoover might have added to its lead if it wasn't for the quick reflexes of Spencer.
With runners at first and second and two outs, Hoover's Lilly Rivera lined the first pitch right back at Spencer, who snagged the ball in front of her face while trying to protect herself from being hit.
"That was the game-changer," Spencer said. "That was an exciting play. Everyone realized we only had a few innings left. That woke everybody up."
Glendale (11-10, 7-7) played like an energetic, but patient team in the bottom half of the fifth.
Eden Marzucco and Esmeralda Winland started the inning with consecutive walks, with Marzucco scoring after three consecutive passed balls to Winland. Avina provided the triple that set up the dramatics in the final innings.
"This is what it's all about," Hoover Coach Rich Henning said. "This is the best rivalry in all of high school softball. Both teams were attacking and it showed. I feel bad, but unfortunately, there's always a winner and a loser."
Glendale won when it took a chance with Spencer.
"The throw was off target, and I'm very surprised they sent her," Henning said. "The ball wasn't that deep and Kenya has a cannon for an arm."
Paknik didn't hesitate on her decision.
"Meghan is good," she said. "She's a smart base runner.
"These are the games you want to be in. These are the games you want to win."